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Monday, September 20, 2010

What's in a name?

"...That which we call a rose
By any other name would smell as sweet."

crossposted from Borderline

Before I got married I considered changing my family name to that of my husband, but the consideration was brief. Even if the thought of administrative hassle would not have been enough of a deterrent, my new name would simply not sound good and, given how my husband's family name was spelled at the time, it would have given rise to awful mispronunciation.

My decision did not mean that I didn't care about marriage as such (I certainly did more than my spouse), or that somehow I cared about my husband less than if I had taken his name. Nobody around me raised an eyebrow, except, typically, my best friend M., who said that he would not have tolerated something like that. Luckily--as he had been told countless times--I am not married to him.

I remember having a conversation with my grandfather (my father's father) back when I was in high school and marriage was a very abstract issue. I told him that I intend to remain Jelica V if and when I get married, and he said that would be the right thing to do. And although he did not live to see me marry, I thought of him when I was signing at the registry, knowing he would be proud.

I am also sure he would have been just as bemused as I was the other day, when Credit Agricole repeatedly tried to make me put my husband's family name as my prenom, on the grounds that this is how it was done in France.

My interview for opening a bank account was going swell, I was managing the conversation in French and was very proud of myself, when the lady noticed that my lease agreement lists me and Ruslan under different family names. That's where she started fretting. In France, apparently, you are supposed to take your husband's name.

"I know that in some northern countries there is a choice and, obviously, it is the same chez vous (her face at this point reflecting the effort of someone trying to place chez vous on a mental map, but alas it all gets fuzzy to the east of Germany) but here in France it is not like that."

At first, I am amused and I smile at this unexpected cultural difference, thinking to myself that at least chez nous is more progressive in something, which is rare. But unfortunately she starts trying to make me change my name on the bank account, so that it doesn't say Madam V but Madam Z.

"Excusez-moi, mais Madam Z n'existe pas!"

At this point I would like to give her a lecture about democracy, progress and women's rights, as well as to remind her that we are in France and not Saudi Arabia, but my brain is slow in French and a tirade ridden with grammatical errors would surely loose punch. Besides, she notices that I am getting annoyed so she drops the subject. After another half an hour of talk she mentions the "name issue" again (I swear this is how she refers to it) at which point I look at her menacingly and say very slowly, and with emphasis.

"Madam, this is my bank account and this is my name. Let us leave my husband out of this."

And so we do, but I still don't have my bank account. I would like to think that is because I am yet to submit proof of address (justificatif de domicile) and not because my name is problematic. But I am preparing my lecture (see above) just in case. The next person who dares suggest I change my name has no idea what's coming at them...


Anonymous said...

By all means keep your name .....this squirrel wouldn't dare argue with you. Actually my wife didn't change her name either and when she makes bookings of hotels in her name, the staff will often change my name to fit hers!

Jelica said...

I like that, although of course the assumption is that she had changed her name...

I mean, all I want is to give them my hard-earned money and they are making a fuss about my name? Incredible.

I_am_Tulsa said...

I have not changed my name either! In Japan you are supposed to but since I am a foreigner, they (the government etc.) really don't care!

I chose not to change since I have a "reputation" with my past job experience and all.

Hang in there Jelica, and I am sure you will get your new bank account!